Deanna Coffman cleans out her files as she prepares for retirement from teaching art, photography and ceramics at Clovis High School. Coffman also taught in several other school districts in New Mexico and Texas.
When school bells rang a few weeks ago signaling the end of the school year, it also signaled a new beginning for retiring Clovis High art teacher Deanna Coffman.
After spending more than three decades trying to instill in youth an appreciation for art, she now hopes to spend more time creating her own art, namely oil paintings and ceramics.
“In the beginning, I thought I would only teach 10 years and then switch to something else,” Coffman said last week while clearing out 34 years of teaching material from her desk.
“At the time, teachers didn’t make a lot. They still don’t, but I stayed with it because my husband was a coach, we moved a lot, and I always needed a job and was able to find one.”
While Coffman could have retired 10 years ago, her love for art and teaching kept her motivated.
“Kids give you a lot of rewards. As a whole, I can truthfully say that most kids are good kids. Some are just misguided,” Coffman said.
CHS Principal Jody Balch said 30 years of teaching is about the norm for most teaching careers these days.
“She was a great teacher,” Balch said. “She understood art and students and had great classroom management. Students understood her expectations and she will be missed.”
Beginning in Hagerman in 1973, she taught in multiple school districts in New Mexico and Texas while moving around with her husband, Barry, who retired last year from 33 years of teaching and coaching. Her six years at CHS was the longest period she taught in one place.
Coffman expressed the importance of keeping art in the schools.
“I would tell my students to stop and look around them. Everything you see is done by an artist: clothes, shoes, fashions. A lot of times they forget. A lot of times they think art is just paintings, but if you stop and look, everything had an artist’s hand in it. If it wasn’t, then it was an act of nature, or an act of God, if you believe in God.”
Coffman laughed at notions that teachers have it easy because they work from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. and have summers off. She noted teachers have many before- and after-school meetings and a lot of paperwork and other matters that most people don’t take into consideration.
“I know a lot of teachers who have second jobs in the summer, and when you’re a younger teacher, you’re busy taking more classes in the summer. It’s getting to where you almost have to have a master’s degree to teach,” she said.
Coffman has advice for new teachers.
“Hang in there because you have a lot of learning to do. In this day and time, you better be prepared and know what you are doing or they (students) will eat you alive.”